‘Disgrace’ as Vietnam veterans memorial vandalized

‘Disgrace’ as Vietnam veterans memorial vandalized
Sam Newhouse

Brass star medallions that line the walls around the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial werestolen recently.

At least two star medallions were taken, apparently ripped off the granite.

SteveUchniat, president of Liberty Bell Chapter #266 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, whowas looking forward to the installation of a statue at the memorialin honor of Philly’s only Medal of Honor recipient next month, was shocked when heheard the news.

The medallions and other bars on the walls were installed a few yearsago as a deterrent to skateboarders who were grinding on the memorial’s walls, he said.

“They were put there for skateboarders. Now Iguess the people are taking them so they can junk them, which I think is a disgrace,” Uchniat said. “That’s what they were for, they were to keep the skateboarders out from damaging the memorial, and now they’re breaking them off and trying to junk them.”

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Memorial caretaker Jim Moran told Philly.com that he disocvered two medallions and three “skateboard stoppers” on the walls were taken on Tuesday.

Terry Williamson, president of the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said the stars were installed during a redesign that cost about $1 million and wrapped up last October. The redesign was intended to make the memorial publicly visible from all sides so that it didn’t attract any illegal activity.

“Unfortunately, there are still idiots out there and this stuff happens,” Williamson said. “It’s extremely sad and discouraging when somebody desecrates the memorial that honors the 646 Philadelphians that gave their lives in the war,but frankly it does happen on occasion. It’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.”

He estimated replacing the stolen metal would cost $500 to $1,000.

“We will make repairs to it. Fortunately the damage was minor,” he said.

Police did not have information available about whether surveillance footage had been pulled from the site of the memorial or if any suspects had been identified.

The memorial’s central wall lists the names of soldiers who died in the Vietnam War. Two more names are currently taped up in paper thatwill soon be added to the granite wall, bringing the total to 648.

“They’re getting ready to engrave them, and then I hear that crap, they’re stealing stuff,”Uchniat said.

A ceremony is also scheduled for April 29 at the memorial for the installation of the statue in honor of Michael J.Crescenz, a Cardinal Dougherty High School graduate who received the Medal of Honor posthumously after dying in Vietnam.

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